Palestinian Authority will not return to power in Gaza

Washington Post editorial board member Shadi Hamid expressed qualms on Monday about the unforeseeable consequences that could follow if Israel successfully neutralizes the threat posed by Hamas.

“The question of what to do about Hamas is a thorny one that I haven’t seen any U.S. official address in any serious way,” he wrote. “How is this meant to work?” New York–based litigator Aatif Iqbal agreed with the premise. “It has always struck me as extremely obvious that Hamas cannot be eliminated militarily,” Iqbal wrote. “That’s like the whole premise of counterinsurgency—you need a broader strategy to separate the people from the insurgency. It’s odd that everyone just ignores this.”

The notion that “everyone just ignores” the particulars that will contribute to a process of de-Hamasification in the Gaza Strip is an admission against interests insofar as it reveals the insularity of the observer. It is not accurate to say that elected officials haven’t expressed concerns about Israel’s plan for a new post-war status quo in Gaza or offered their own ideal, although the relative seriousness of their proposals is open to debate.

For example, Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the new government in the Strip “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” That was no errant comment. “As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution,” read a Washington Post op-ed bylined by President Joe Biden earlier this month. Whatever the administration means by a “revitalized Palestinian Authority,” engineering that outcome sounds like an even bigger ordeal than establishing a provisional governing authority in the reoccupied Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority and the Fatah Party that controls it in the West Bank are hardly champing at the bit to reassume responsibility over Gaza. The violent 2007 coup in which Fatah authorities were thrown from rooftops by Hamas terrorists amid their seizure of power in the Strip may contribute to that apprehension, but the PA’s stance is as opportunistic as it is practical. Ramallah’s representatives insist they won’t lift a finger for Gaza in the absence of concessions from Israel over the status of Jerusalem, for example, and they won’t negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. That recalcitrance is amply justified by Fatah’s fear of its own people, who hold Hamas in far higher regard than the kleptocrats in charge of the West Bank.

Nor do we have any indication that the Palestinian Authority is committed to the essential goal of de-radicalizing Gaza politics. Indeed, comments made by the secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee, Jabril Rajoub, in a press conference earlier this month in Kuwait suggest that the PA is as committed as ever to deploying terrorism as a tool of statecraft. Rajoub described the 10/7 massacre as a continuation of the “defensive war full of epics and heroics that the Palestinian people have been fighting for 75 years,” and he praised the slaughter for derailing a broader regional normalization process between Israel and its Arab neighbors in which the Palestinian issue had become sidelined.

Breaking Hamas’s hold over Gaza is, indeed, only step one. It must be followed by the establishment of a new civilian governing authority that supplants Hamas’s violent and bigoted ideological commitment to murdering Jews with something approaching civil society. That’s a tall order, but it is not a commitment for which Israel volunteered itself. The mission in which Israel is presently engaged was imposed upon the Jewish state after a 15-year experiment in autonomy in Gaza imploded in the most barbaric fashion imaginable. No one has articulated a palatable alternative to this project because none exists.

There’s a reason why the Netanyahu government has ruled out a restoration of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. Given the PA’s underwhelming 10 percent approval rating among residents of both noncontiguous Palestinian territories, it isn’t clear that the locals would welcome that outcome either. Casual observers could be forgiven for concluding that the only people clamoring for a two-state solution on the terms imagined at Oslo are Westerners who regard Israel’s war as a highly abstract intellectual exercise. Israelis no longer have that luxury.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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